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Proper planter maintenance for yield increases

Winter is a good time for planter inspections and maintenance, even if your planter is new this year

Next year’s corn yields may be the last thing growers want to think about at this time of year, but as the snow begins to fall, it’s the perfect time to make sure you’re getting everything you can from your corn planter come spring.

A properly calibrated planter could make a huge difference to your bottom line —from as little as one to two bushels per acre with fine tuning, to as much as 20 to 30 bushels per acre with a major overhaul, depending on what needs to be addressed.

Take advantage of time out of the field to do a close inspection of the equipment — including bushings and bearings. If you have a finger pickup planter, be sure the metering units are cleaned, working properly and calibrated. With proper maintenance and calibration, a planter should be 85 to 90 per cent ready to roll once the snow melts.

Even if your planter is new this year, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s ready to go when you bring it home. Used or new, planters may not be ready to roll. You’ll want to check each unit, the seed metres and calibrate for the hybrids and seeding rates you want to use. Your local agronomist can also help by providing reports on seeding rates and planter information by hybrid.

And when the long-awaited planting season arrives, there’s no substitute for running a planter in a field to make those final adjustments. As you’re planting, stop to check two or three times each day to ensure the planter is running properly (correct height and level) and check the seed depth and placement of trench and seed spacing are where you want them to be, and be prepared to make adjustments.

Remember — soil preparation is key. The more uniform the tillable prep, the better the planter will work. Once the crop has emerged, you’ll have a better chance to check your set up and calibration. Walk the fields and pay close attention to plant spacing and uniformity of crop emergence and early growth, so you’ll know what adjustments you want to make for next year.

Precise placement is the best way to get a crop off to a good start. And, while there are many factors that will always be out of a grower’s control, seeding depth, seed placement and seed spacing are something that is in reach — with a well-tuned planter.

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